ABOUT ARTS PRACTICA
Arts Practica is a medical education consultancy committed to improving healthcare quality, reducing misdiagnosis, and increasing arts engagement. Arts Practica takes an education approach, focusing on creative skill development for better doctoring and better teaching.
Arts Practica provides workshops:
- For care providers and clinical teachers: in creativity, reflective practice, and pedagogical tools.
- For arts leaders and educators: to extend arts strategy to specific needs in medical practice.
Arts Practica also provides consulting on program development and collaborations between medical schools and art museums.
This work arises from the following questions: How and where do care providers learn the skills of excellent clinical engagement? What are the aesthetic components of attention? What is the role of art in the development of creative skills? What are components of beneficial collaborations across arts and science domains? How can art museums make a difference in the health of the communities they serve?
Quality, creative attention is the difference between good and great in medicine. Arts Practica is committed to making this mysterious difference a practical reality.
Artist-turned-medical-educator Alexa Miller is a nationally recognized expert on visual art and clinical perception. Her workshops engage healthcare providers in practices of mindful observation in visual arts experiences. Driven by a strong personal interest in misdiagnosis and the thought habits that contribute to them, Alexa is specialized in the pedagogical tools of the Visual Thinking Strategies and their applications to the medical learning process.
Alexa got her start as co-creator of the Training the Eye Program, an arts-based preclinical course focused on the physical exam and the process of diagnosis, offered at Harvard Medical School since 2003. TTE produced published outcomes on the impact of arts training on medical students, and has become a model for programs at other medical schools and art museums internationally. After teaching in that program for a decade, Alexa now focuses on extending the gifts of the art-viewing process to audiences broadly in healthcare.
A frequent presenter to medical and general audiences, Alexa has written and contributed to research in peer-reviewed publications, taught undergraduate courses in Education Departments at both Brandeis University and Wellesley College, and formerly served as Curator of Education at the Davis Museum, Wellesley College. Some of her clients have included the American College of Physicians, Tufts Medical School, and Boston University Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine. She currently serves as a facilitator in Yale School of Management’s program on Interpersonal and Group Dynamics, and also serves on the Education Committee for the Society for the Improvement of Diagnosis in Medicine.
Alexa received her BA in art history from Swarthmore College and her MA in studio painting from the Wimbledon School of Art, is a trained trainer and coach in Visual Thinking Strategies, and has completed courses at the Center for Women and Enterprise. She has received awards from Creative Center for People with Cancer and New England Museum Association.
Alexa’s lives outside of New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband, a biologist, and two tiny randomizers.
“Phenomenal workshop. Viscerally promoted reflection, humanism, teamwork and critical thinking in medicine—and art appreciation overall. Thank you!”
–James Meisel, MD, FACP
“Awesome workshop. I was very skeptical at first.”
–Medical College Dean
“I will observe more carefully patients and document my observations in the general physical exam.”
–MD, Worcester, MA
“I will take a more engaged role in collaboration with other health practitioners to enhance the patient’s experience in getting better.”
–CD, Ontario, Canada
“I will ask: what’s another way of looking at this?”
–MD, Ontario, Canada
“This was one of the most innovative and compelling workshops I have ever attended at this annual conference. To me it was the highpoint of the entire meeting.”
“Alexa Miller’s contributions are without doubt the key determinant of our success in Harvard’s “Training the Eye” course. She is certainly among the most insightful, thoughtful, creative, articulate and effective teachers I have ever interacted with! She is, what I would call, a “franchise player” — one so blessed with teaching and effective communication skills that she brings credit to each institution lucky enough to attract her.”
–Joel T. Katz, MD, Director Internal Medicine Residency, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
“I enthusiastically endorse the Art Practicum Workshop Series for Clinicians. Alexa is an experienced, engaging teacher who presents a dynamic workshop. I have participated in several, and I have implemented lessons learned in small group ambulatory didactic sessions for fourth year medical students. I highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in refreshing their skills in broad, artistic, humanistic dimensions.”
–Suzanne Sarfaty, MD, MPH, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Director, Office of Enrichment, Boston University School of Medicine
“Alexa Miller is a gifted teacher who is able to blend her extensive knowledge of the visual arts with an uncanny ability to enable students to observe in a truly open and unbiased way. I contacted Alexa initially because I wanted to find a way to expand the observational skills of the students (graduate and undergraduate-levels) in my child development courses. I noticed that their previous experiences and assumptions about children tainted their observations and thus limited their understanding of young children. Alexa’s response was to design a series of sessions, led at the Museum of Fine Arts, which she linked closely to my curriculum. Her initial interactions were sensitive and thoughtful, and resulted in a strong sense of trust among the students. Once this was established, she challenged the students to engage more deeply with works of art, and to reflect upon the implications for their professional practice.
“Alexa’s timely prompts, questions, and drawing instruction all contributed to a gradual change in the students’ interactions. The group began to look more closely and precisely, to listen more attentively to their peers and to share more freely. This carried over into a subsequent case study assignment that reflected a more robust style of observation connected to analysis. What a success! Alexa gave us all the inspiration to take the time to look more closely, to be thoughtful and open-minded when considering the people and things in our world.”
–Marcia Edson, MEd, Clinical Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Boston University
“Excellent. At first I thought it would be too touchy-feely and not applicable, but I was quickly sold on its value.”
“Alexa worked with our teaching teams to develop and refine our observation skills. She is a very talented facilitator who managed to connect with every single teacher who attended the training. All who participated learned a lot about themselves and how they approach the process of observation. Team members also had the opportunity to reflect on each other’s strengths as observers and to appreciate the different perspectives we all bring to the team. We have been working on taking what we learned at the museum and applying it to our real-time observations of children. It has been tremendously beneficial to our work.”
–Ann Haber, Owner, Sunshine Academy, www.sunshineacademy.com
“Wow! This was the best, most inspiring and well organized workshop in many years, at many meetings.”
“This course was a refreshing breather that freed my mind to think in new ways, while enhancing the way I look at my patients.”
–Student, Harvard Medical School, 2008.
“This course literally changed my life.”
–Student, Wellesley College, 2009.
SELECT CLIENT LIST
- The American College of Physicians
- Harvard Medical School / Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
- Boston University: School of Medicine; Goldman School of Dental Education; Department of Education
- Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine
- The Bechtler Museum of Art
- Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College
- Visual Thinking Strategies National Office
- Brandeis University: Education Department and The Rose Art Museum
- University of South Florida
- Arts Education Partnership
- Carolinas Healthcare Center
- Baycrest Hospital, Toronto
- Wellesley College